ACE MV Staff

Alexandra Bullen Coutts believes in lifelong learning and that “career paths” are not always linear. A published author of five novels for young adults, she has worked as a program director, community organizer, social media manager, high school teacher, grant writer, magazine editor, freelance journalist, waitress, barista and yoga instructor.

Through writing and telling stories for and about young adults, she discovered a passion for working directly with young people to help them make connections to futures in education and meaningful employment. At Martha’s Vineyard Community Services she created a social network and programming for young adults aged 18-30, called Oyster MV. Through a weekly newsletter, social media and in-person programming she built a space for young adults to engage with the island community and consider new directions and possibilities.

She joined ACE MV as Executive Director in May is 2023 and is eager to support learners of all ages in the process of building secure, fulfilling, and evolving Island lives.

Alex holds a BA and a MFA from New York University. A mother of three young children, Alex loves to travel with her family, cook, read, write and walk the Island’s glorious beaches and trails. She hopes to return to yoga one day.

Jeni Zern landed at ACE MV after a circuitous passion-fueled journey through life: she’s been a graphic designer, the frontwoman of two NYC bands, a freelance writer, a pet sitter and a content creator, to name just a few. While juggling many of these pursuits, she studied at CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies for a self-tailored degree in the history of social oppression. A New York City native and erstwhile Los Angeleno, Jeni has lived year-round on Martha’s Vineyard since 2011.

After finishing high school on the Vineyard, Courtney migrated to Brooklyn, NY, where she would spend the next 15 years doing research and working on her education. During that time, she earned her BA in Psychology & the Special Honors Curriculum from Hunter College, with a minor in Biology. After graduating, she was awarded a RISE Fellowship to begin her graduate studies at The City University of New York, earning a Master of Philosophy in Psychology prior to leaving academia to enter the nonprofit sector. Courtney then spent five years as a Supervising Counselor for a community mental health center in Upstate New York before returning to the Vineyard and joining ACE MV.

Originally moving to the Island full time in 2001 while in Middle School, Garrett has lived and worked on the Vineyard for most of his adult life. A graduate of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, Garrett holds a BA from UMass Dartmouth. During college, Garrett worked a variety of jobs including a stints as a shoe salesman and as a cable technician. After graduating from college, Garrett returned to the Island “for the summer” and stuck around for another 13 years. Before joining ACE, he worked in advertising sales for the Vineyard Gazette Media Group and previously managed a store in Vineyard Haven. Garrett has a deep familiarity with the local business community and is excited to find new ways to support the people within it. Garrett lives on Island year round with his wife and two daughters. They share their home with an old dog, an old cat, and a very old lizard. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family, watching movies, and getting caught up in new hobbies and projects.

ACE MV Program Support

Deb Maher has been learning and teaching with other students of all ages and stages since playing school as a third grader back in 1953. She began her professional experience as a teaching assistant in the federally funded Follow Through Program in Cambridge, MA back in 1968, and has worked in many varied educational institutions, both public and private, in MA and RI, from pre-school through college levels, ever since. Moving to the Vineyard in 1974, Deb worked in MV Publics Schools as a teacher, staff and curriculum developer, and an administrator for twenty years. In 2016, Deb began her most recent, and still current position, as MV Outreach Coordinator/Counselor for Cape Cod Community College here on-Island. Previously Deb was a member of the ACE MV Program Committee from 2012-15, and has enjoyed reconnecting to collaborate with MV CET recently to help launch the very successful and much needed Early Childhood Education (ECE) initiative to develop an ECE workforce for the Vineyard community. She is pleased to join MV CET now to help support and develop our MV ECE Cohort. Deb earned her AS and BS Degrees in ECE from Wheelock College in 1973, and her Masters in Education from Lesley College (now University) in 1978, along with a cohort of educators here on the Vineyard. She has participated in and learned from many other professional development opportunities with other higher education institutions such Columbia Teachers College and at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She believes that her most effective learning experiences have always been with students themselves. Deb is proud to have raised, as a single Mom, two creative and caring, now grown children, and is happily engaged with three young adult grandchildren, who are continuing to help her learn new things every day.

Sayra Guimaraes is our Portuguese-Language Coordinator, also a full-time Psychology student who’s passionate about helping the Brazilian Community feel like they are home. Sayra is a certified Portuguese Interpreter and has been helping the Brazilian Community since she was still in High School. She understands how hard it is to learn a new language, especially for the parents who work full-time to take care of their children. For that reason, she decided to work together with ACE MV to provide Early Childhood Education cohort with a Portuguese Instructor and all the contents as well. She wants the Portuguese speakers to have the opportunity of owning their own degree to not just learn more about how to take care of their children, but other children as well.

ACE MV Board

In addition to a professional staff, ACE MV has an engaged Board of Directors who oversees the governance and fiscal policy of the organization. The Board works closely with outside advisors, retired business and education leaders and other nonprofit community members.

Nancy Hoffman is a vice president and senior advisor at Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit based in Boston focused on improving educational and workforce outcomes for low income young people and adults. She is currently co-lead with Prof. Robert Schwartz of the Pathways to Prosperity State Network, a collaboration among eight states, Jobs for the Future, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The Network seeks to ensure that many more youth complete high school, attain a post-secondary credential with currency in the labor market, and get launched on a career while leaving open the prospect of further education. For a decade at JFF, Hoffman led JFF’s Early College High School Initiative, a network of over 270 schools in 28 states blending high school and two years of college. She continues to work with states on aligning and integrating high school and college and developing new pathways to degree completion and careers. Hoffman’s career spans many years of work in high schools and higher education. Prior to joining JFF, she was a senior lecturer in education at Brown University and served as director of the President’s Office and secretary of the Brown Corporation. Hoffman served as vice provost for undergraduate studies at Temple University and director of the University Honors Program, with faculty appointments in English and women’s studies. She was the academic services dean at Harvard Graduate School of Education from 1988-1990. She also served as a program officer at the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education and a founder and faculty member of the College of Public and Community Service at UMass Boston. She has held teaching positions in English and comparative literature at the University of California Santa Barbara, Portland State University, MIT, and UMass Boston. She co-convened the Academic Environment Unit of HERS Summer Institute for Women in Higher Education Administration. Hoffman has served as a consultant for the education policy unit of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Her most recent book, drawing on the OECD’s Learning for Jobs initiative is Schooling in the Workplace: How Six of the World’s Best Vocational Education Systems Prepare Young People for Jobs and Life (Harvard Education Press, 2011). She speaks and writes about high-quality vocational education in the United States and abroad. Hoffman holds a B.A. and Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of California Berkeley. Other recent publications include Women’s True Profession: Voices from the History of Teaching (2003), and, edited with Richard Kazis and Joel Vargas, Double the Numbers: Increasing Postsecondary Credentials for Underrepresented Youth (2004), and Minding the Gap: Why Integrating High School with College Makes Sense and How to Do It (2007), edited by Hoffman and Vargas with Andrea Venezia and Marc Miller. Hoffman serves on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.

Kim Garrison is a PhD student in Human Development at the University of Rochester, and acting Behavioral Health Coordinator/Research Specialist for Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools. Kim Garrison has worked in the education and human development fields in both Massachusetts and New York State for over twenty-five years. She has experience in the public Pk-12, private higher education, and non-profit sectors. She has worked as a teacher, supervisor of teacher candidates, consultant to school districts on multi-tiered systems of supports, program evaluator, and researcher.

Kim’s research focuses on structures for promotive educational systems that drive positive youth development (e.g., school climate, social emotional learning, educator collaboration, and teacher burnout). She is also a 2020 Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellow. Under this award, Kim is leading a system-wide initiative at MVPS to develop a multi-tiered system of care model framed by the National School Mental Health Curriculum (National Center for School Mental Health and MHTTC Network Coordinating Office, 2019). Using the School Health Assessment and Evaluation (SHAPE) System and improvement science methods (Carnegie Foundation) she is leading a team of school counselors and school psychologists to map and evaluate school needs according to the quality standards for school mental health and trauma responsiveness. In addition, as acting project fellow and research specialist, Kim is leading a feasibility study for a school-based health center at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School using The Community Guide framework for community preventive services (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Kim grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and went through the MV school system K-12. She has taught at both Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and West Tisbury School, and she is excited to watch her daughter Kennedy learn and grow here on MV.

Norman Werthwein graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in 1967 with a B.A. in Accounting. After serving two years in the US Army he began his career with a Public Accounting Firm obtaining his CPA and Partnership with the large International Firm. He then joined Tiffany & CO. as Chief Financial Officer and then became Chief Accounting Officer for Avon Products Inc, Subsequently he has been Chief Financial Officer for both privately held and Public Companies in a variety of Industries. He has also served on the Boards of both national and local not-for profits. He is married with two adult children and resides in Chilmark.

Richie SmithMy name is Richie Smith. I have the great pleasure of serving our Island as the superintendent of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools.  I received my BA from Virginia Tech, my M.Ed. from the University of Virginia, and my doctorate from the College of William and Mary.  After a long career in teaching I have been blessed to be a school administrator for the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools for over 20 years.  I feel fortunate to support our Island community as a member of this board.

My name is Joan Chaput and I am a seasoned CFO. With an MBA from Simmons College in Boston, I have 40 years of experience as a CFO for national and international companies, working for companies as varied as a wholesale distributor, a 10-location call center, and landing at my current position at the YMCA.

While one’s resume often reads as a straight line – more often the journey meanders. For me, growing up in the city of Boston and the first in my extended family to go to college, I found myself at UMass Amherst majoring in Archaeology. Clearly less career counseling in school back then.

Following graduation, I worked in a day care center, then as a grant administrator, then a canoeing instructor, and always a math tutor. Refocusing on a career for myself, I returned to school for a secondary school teaching certificate. I taught history and mathematics at the high school level. I loved teaching, and thought I had found my calling, until Proposition 2 ½ came along, when teachers with less than 5 years tenure were dismissed. Time to reinvent again.

I decided to go back to school for an MBA, always with the intent of returning to teaching. In the process, quite surprisingly, I fell in love with accounting. For several years, I taught evening Math and Accounting classes at Simmons College while working as CFO during the day. I combined my desire to teach with my job as CFO by promoting employees from within whenever feasible. I set up a tutorial program for employees with no accounting experience but with the right aptitude. After several years of tutoring, mentoring, and promoting, most now have excellent accounting positions within many different industries.

In 1999, our family moved to the Island for a better school system while I worked remotely for a Canadian company. Shortly thereafter, I joined the Board of Directors as Treasurer for the YMCA, years before the building was started. I also joined the Board of Directors of the Vineyard Conservation Society. When the Canadian business was sold, I joined the staff of the YMCA, first as Controller, and recently as CFO.

Tilma Johnson is Vice President and Regional Manager for Rockland Trust, Martha’s Vineyard. She is the former Vice President for the Edgartown National Bank. Tilma is actively involved with our island’s community – she is a SCORE mentor and serves as Board Member for the Edgartown Board of Trade. In 2015, Tilma was recognized by the MV Chamber of Commerce as one of the “40 under 40” most influential people on Martha’s Vineyard.

Cynthia is an experienced business law and certified human resources professional as well as a management professor. She is CEO & Founder of Baldwin Rise, a firm dedicated to empowering clients through legal and human resources consulting; ethics, compliance and risk mitigation; facilitation and mediation services; and academic mentoring and coaching. She leads human resources and compliance workshops and webinars to national audiences. Cynthia currently serves as legal counsel and chief human resources officer for an international transformation management consultancy. She is also an adjunct faculty member in higher education teaching business management, negotiation, business law, and continuing education-workforce development courses. 

Cynthia holds a Doctor of Law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law; a Master’s degree in business ethics and compliance from Cambridge College; and a Bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Connecticut. A life-long learner, Cynthia completed the scholar-practitioner program sponsored by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. She also completed an internal coach intensive program at Columbia University’s Teachers College; earned a certificate in human resources management from Duke University; and earned a certificate in negotiation mastery from Harvard Business School Online. 

Cynthia is a member of The Links, Incorporated and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She has been a community leader for many years, serving on various government and non-profit boards in Fairfield County Connecticut. Also, currently she is a regional trustee for the National Urban League.     

Cynthia was born in Norwalk, Connecticut and has homes in Ridgefield, CT and Vineyard Haven, MA.

Donald R. Leopold is a professional affiliate of the Center for Leading Organizations and senior partner of Sherbrooke Partners, a consulting firm offering a unique blend of strategic planning, management, and organizational expertise. Don’s consulting focus is on helping clients develop and articulate their business strategies, and on building organizations that are capable of implementing those strategies. He has applied a highly facilitative approach to his work since he began his consulting career with Harbridge House in 1980. Representative engagements have included conducting an industry assessment, facilitating a strategic planning process, leading an organizational redesign and providing 360-degree feedback and coaching for a major private equity firm; conducting Organizational Audits and leading organization development initiatives with a private equity firm’s portfolio companies; creating and facilitating a strategic planning process for a national furniture retailer; serving as a strategic planning, change management and executive development consultant to the CEO of an international public policy research and consulting firm; leading planning retreats for the Dean and Chairs of a leading medical school; providing organizational development consulting, including use of the Work-Out process, to an academic health care system; and designing and delivering a 360-degree-feedback based leadership development program for the leaders and managers of a Fortune 50 consumer foods company. Don holds a BA from Harvard College, cum laude in general studies, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He serves on the Board of The Brandon School and Residential Treatment Center.

Finance Committee Chair: Norman Werthwein

Governance Committee Chair: Nancy Hoffman

Fundraising Committee Chair: Kim Garrison